By on May 15, 2018

Last time on Buy/Drive/Burn, we checked out three C-body offerings from General Motors and forced you to choose one. The luxury flowed freely, and only limited salt was dashed upon its splendor.

Today we follow the same form with Ford, looking at offerings from three different brands riding on the same platform. Crack open a DEW and let’s get to it.

The DEW platform was developed for use by Ford and cars in the Premier Automotive Group (PAG). PAG was a grouping of Ford’s luxury automotive brands, an idea generated under CEO Jacques Nasser in 1999. Aston Martin, Lincoln, Jaguar/Land Rover, and Volvo were all grouped under the prestigious PAG umbrella. By 2002, the midsize rear-drive DEW underpinned three different Ford vehicles, so that’s our year of discussion.

Jaguar S-Type 4.2

Jaguar’s new S-Type debuted for the 2000 model year, aimed squarely at the North American market. Vintage retro cues combined with modern tech in an entry that was smaller and more sporty than the XJ flagship sedan. The intent here was to draw younger and sporting-prone affluent customers to Jaguar’s fusty showrooms. For 2002 the S-Type’s V8 was enlarged from 4.0 to 4.2 liters, bringing horsepower to an even 300. 2002 was also the last year for the S-Type’s initial interior design with U-shaped center console. Navigation was not an option, but leather and walnut wood covered most surfaces in traditional fashion. The S-Type R added a supercharger to the 4.2 V8, but that sleek barnstormer is outside our purposes today.

Lincoln LS 3.9

The other sedan offered on the DEW at the time, Lincoln’s new LS, had much the same mission as the S-Type: offer a sporty sedan for young, upscale customers. Compared to the S-Type, the LS was considerably more modern. And while it bore resemblance to the other contemporary Lincoln offerings, it didn’t take part in any retro throwbacks. Due to its close relation to the Jaguar, the LS was offered with Jaguar-designed V6 or V8 engines. Base models were powered by the 3.0-liter AJ30 engine, also shared with lower-end S-Types. The altered AJ V8 was a shrunken 3.9-liter Jaguar design, used only by Ford and Lincoln and built in Ohio. Through 2002, the 3.9 made 252 horsepower, with an upgrade to 280 horses in 2003.

Ford Thunderbird

Only one coupe ever rested atop the DEW, and it was Ford’s brand new Thunderbird. Introduced for the 2002 model year, the sporting coupe had been on hiatus from Ford’s lineup after the 1997 model year, and the Blue Oval made a big deal of its return. The new Thunderbird leaned heavily on then-popular retro styling, just like the S-Type. It bathed itself in cues from historic Thunderbirds of yore. Seating only two people in its cockpit, the Thunderbird’s retro exterior did not carry over to its interior. Many components and materials were shared with the LS, with a few some model-specific trim items and fonts. For its introductory year, Thunderbird carried the same 252-horsepower 3.9-liter V8 as the Lincoln LS. The shortest-lived of our trio, the Thunderbird lasted only through 2005 before its cancellation.

Two sedans, one convertible: Which DEW is for you?

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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73 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Three Cars, One Platform – 2002 DEW Edition...”

  • avatar

    Buy: Jaguar – retro design done somewhat correctly. A nice homage to the Mk.2s of the 1960s.

    Drive: Lincoln – probably the most fun and best handling large American “sports sedan” of its era.

    Burn: Ford – I don’t think it’s a bad car, but on this list you gotta burn something, right?

  • avatar
    Kalvin Knox

    Buy- Thunderbird- I really like the way it looks but I wouldn’t want to drive it too much as it may be valuable in the future.

    Drive- LS- Still a great looking car, Probably drives well too. Probably won’t feel too much shame in putting miles on one of these.

    Burn- Jag. It’s disgusting to look at. Probably still a great car, but I wouldn’t want to have to see that front end every morning.

    • 0 avatar

      James May famously referred to the S-Type as what Americans think a Jag is supposed to look like. Ouch.

      I used to like the styling when it was fairly new, but it is definitely not aging well.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a grey 1962 Mark II, and the S-Type does it fair homage from the front. I may pick one of these up one day if I can find a nice example at my price…
      Burn the faux T-Bird, drive the Lincoln.

  • avatar

    I don’t think any of them aged particularly well. But the Jaguar is probably the best because it attempted retro styling themes and somewhat succeeded. The LS screams early 2000s (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and I don’t know what to say about the Thunderbird.

    I noticed that you left out photos of their plasticky nteriors. That was a real issue back then.

  • avatar

    Beware of dodgey timing chain tensioners on the Jag u Ar. The plastic used to make the case of the tensioner fails with heat and all oil pressure to operate the tensioner is lost. Once you lose oil pressure, tension is immediacy lost on the chain and the valves and pistons have a violent meeting. You can kiss your AJ V-8 good buy and your Jag will become another candidate for Murlee’s Camera. Back here stateside, Ford engineers recognized the problem and redesigned the tensioner. IIRC LS and T- Birds did not suffer from the same catastrophic issues. Burn the Jag, Drive the LS (with a stick) if you can find one.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      The plastic tensioners had been replaced with metal by the time the 4.2 engine arrived in 2002.

      I ran a Jag XK8 with the early 4.0 engine for a couple of years, and spent most of those years worrying that the tensioners might fail…

    • 0 avatar

      I put over 150,000 miles on my used 2000 LS with a stick. It was somewhat slow (232hp V6 only) great driving car. In this case I’d drive the LS keep the Ford and burn the Jaguar. The Jag looked good when released but did not age wel4l. My LS was replaced with an 04 XJ which shares many parts with the LS (rear suspension, front upper a-arms) using aluminum body so its larger, lighter, faster and gets better fuel economy.

  • avatar

    Buy the T-bird – it’s actually kinda/sorta cool-looking. Lots of older folks bought these, so you can find low-mileage examples. Good luck finding a Jag or LS that hasn’t landed on three buy here/pay here lots. The T-bird would make a great Sunday afternoon cruising car.

    Drive the Lincoln.

    Burn the Jag.

  • avatar

    Buy the T-Bird – it’s a convertible, and only seats 2.

    Drive the Jag – better interior than the Lincoln, although it’s just as tight inside.

    Burn the Lincoln – plasticky, right interior, although I like the exterior styling.

    • 0 avatar

      Same: buy t bird as a fair weather weekend cruiser and something that I suppose will be worth something (?) some day.

      Drive Jag and enjoy the luxury without paying the typical jag price.

      Burn Lincoln. No benefit over the Jaguar except styling that I sort of prefer to the Jag’s bloat.

      We had an older black gentleman that worked at our shipping dock that drives a very nice maroon LS. He was incredibly particular about this car: if so much as a check engine light came on he wouldn’t drive it and would have it taken on a flatbed to a shop ASAP. It’s funny because before I found this out I saw him hoofing it down the street on the weekend and I asked the other shipping guy what that might have been about and the other guy laughed and explained the peculiarity with the flatbed tows.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree here as well
      Buy the T-Bird. Two-seat cruiser and because it was a flop – due to mostly horrible marketing and pricing structure – it makes the all that more unique

      Drive the Jag. Also kind of unique. The idea of being swaddled in leather and walnut definitely appeals just not enough to buy.

      Burn the Lincoln. Never understood the appeal of the car. The exterior styling of the car sure put the “B” in Boring. I remember one particular commercial showing the attractive not quite middle-aged couple in their LS driving along one of the bridges between the Florida Keys. The driver looks down towards the water and sees one of those insanely expensive two-seat jet cruising/racing boat go by and says to his wife/girlfriend, “I gotta get me one of those”! Cut to the boat and the boat driver who looks at the LS going by on the bridge and says to the person next to him, “I gotta get me one of those”! Two thought immediately sprung to mind
      1) To the LS driver – If you could afford the boat in the water, you wouldn’t be driving an LS
      2) To the boat driver – No you don’t!

  • avatar

    Buy: Lincoln. Yah, kind of boring to look at but in an honest way.

    Drive: T-Bird, a retro toy bold enough to really look like they were trying.

    Burn: Retro mixed with British understatement makes it look like a half-assed effort.

    • 0 avatar

      notapreppie, suprised i had to scroll this much down to find my order, but here’s where I fit. I like that LS for the same reasons I’ve always liked Cadillac’s Art and Science… but only insofar as it stays compact. There’s something nice about the LS. I wouldn’t mind having had one, so buy. T-bird is neat in a strange way. Burn the Jag.

  • avatar
    Joshua Johnson

    Buy the Jaguar – I’ve had mine, albeit an S-Type R, for 9 years and at 125k miles it still puts a smile on my face. The 4.2 sounds great with an aftermarket exhaust. The NA 4.2 also had the option for CATS, Jag’s adaptive suspension. That alone puts it heads and shoulders above the other two in terms of pleasure to drive. Journalists seemed to pile the hate on the J-gate shifter, but it works extremely well, and there is no question as to which gear you are in when using it. Man, just thinking about makes me want to go for a drive.

    I am fairly certain the plastic chain tensioner issue pertained to the original 4.0L rather than the updated 4.2L.

    Drive the Lincoln – I’ve never sampled it, but many members of the Jaguar forum came from the LS previously. It drove fairly well from what I recall of their comments.

    Burn the Ford – Although maybe only metaphorically, as this seems to be the only platform member to hold its value. The styling has never done it for me. I have no idea how it drives. There was talk on the forum on how this being a convertible, it received extra chassis stiffening compared to the sedans. One of the hallowed “upgrades” was to take those cross members and install on the sedan; I don’t recall anyone ever going through with it.

    • 0 avatar

      This. Maybe I even can afford a Jag someday.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I imagine that not long into the 21st century, the journalists were happy to leave Jaguar alone about the J-gate and focus on the then-confusing monostatic gear selectors that BMW and Mercedes-Benz were putting out, starting with the 2002 BMW “E65” 7 Series and 2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom.

      And yes, the S-Type R was a sweetie.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Buy the Jaguar — It’s got classic looks.

    Drive the Lincoln — You could get it with a manual transmission. That’s gotta count for something, right? Like the contemporary CTS, it was rough around the edges, but it was athletic and Lincoln was on to something.

    Burn the Ford — I didn’t think this was a particularly good homage to the Thunderbird nameplate. Plus, having actually driven it, it’s just uncomfortable and finicky for no reason.

    Of course, my favorite DEW98 car would actually be its final product, the 2009-2015 Jaguar XF.

    A side note about DEW98. It was originally supposed to underpin the Mustang, you know, the 2005-2014 retro one. Ford had to make some modifications to begin with because DEW wouldn’t actually accommodate the giant Modular engine family–which is why all three of the luxury cars Corey mentioned used the more-compact Jaguar AJV8. And then they realized DEW98 would be too expensive if they wanted to hit the target price-point, so they began cost-cutting it quite a bit, revering to a live-axle rear suspension, among other things. By the time the Mustang’s offshoot platform (called D2C) was actually born, not much of the original DEW98 architecture was left besides part of the floorpan, the transmission tunnel, and the front frame rails.

    Also, it should be noted that despite its designation, the AJ30 V6 engine was a modified Duratec, and therefore not a “true” Jaguar engine.

  • avatar

    Buy the Tbird – in 10 years it will be a collectors item. A 2 seat cruiser convertible with interesting styling and domestic parts for reasonable maintenance and repair costs.

    Drive the Lincoln – my sister had one and was a nice ride for the time. Disposable car but drives well and cheaper to maintain and repair.

    Burn – the Jag. Will have more expensive repairs because it’s a Jag and outside of limited edition high performance variants, won’t be worth much outside of a few restored examples decades from now.

    People are paying good money for 1980s Toyota pickups and other throw away models from the 80s, 1970s Civics have a market. The Tbird retro convertible will be a valuable car at some point and are now selling in the high teens for a good one.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Naah, the only people who wanted the Dewbird when they were new are mostly dead now.

      • 0 avatar

        A guy in his 70s at my muni golf club has a ‘bird and he has four standing offers from guys in their late-30s to mid-40s who want to buy it. But this is California, with its odd auto preferences, and a muni golf course, with its middle class clientele.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve never, ever, including 2002-2007 (adjusted for inflation), seen such dumb money chasing such mediocre, vastly overpriced everything (autos, to art, to real estate, to equities, to…everything) in my life.

          The Boomers are now splurging on things big and small, of poor quality, mediocre quality, overpaying for them by a vast sum, with the monies they’ve earned and accrued and/or inherited.

          This is not a “blame the Boomers” observation of judgment, but an observation of human behavior, generational behavior, and fact.

          In almost any category of tangible goods (autos, RVs, boats, art, wine, real estate, etc.), or intangible to semi-tangible goods (equities, chattel paper/contracts, bonds, etc.), prices are likely the most rich since the 1923-1928 in American history, and in some instances, exceeding those levels.

          There is more malinvestment in this Boomer Generation Wind Down and Sunset than I’d ever thought possible.

          In my line of work, the actual, specific, “best practices,” empirical data and formulae supports the contentions I’ve made above.

    • 0 avatar

      ”2 seat cruiser convertible with interesting styling and domestic parts”

      You could say the same thing about the Reatta. Or even the original Sebring. Both of which are barely collectible.

      The retro Thunderbird is just the epitome of an “I know what I got” car.

      • 0 avatar

        The Reatta and Sebring were both FWD and neither had a V8. The Reatta was a low volume car, but the original Sebring was a mass produced car. There’s really no comparison.

  • avatar

    The LS must be nuked from orbit, its the only way to be sure.

    Somehow from what I remember the S-type was better in a Hitler/Stalin argument kind of way. Drive.

    The Thunderbird was always a looker but I have next to zero knowledge about it. I suppose “buy” then.

  • avatar

    Buy the T-Bird.
    Drive the Lincoln.
    Burn the Jag.

  • avatar

    The Thunderbird was a DEW? No WONDER it was such an abysmal failure; it bore no resemblance to the original outside of that little opera window.

    How did people get the idea that it was a stretched Miata?

  • avatar

    OK we are back to this century

    Buy the Lincoln _ it looked ok but I put a premium on drive vs buy and I have to buy something as per the rules, bonus if you find a stick but only to sell it in 6 years.

    Drive the Jag, I think it looks great and have always shopped them when replacing cars but never bought one, bonus points for not offering a NAV

    Burn baby burn the T bird is ugly and I love convertibles , have had one or another for 30 years but this may be the ugliest vert I have seen in my life that is a car.

  • avatar

    Ooh – this is tough.

    Buy: Jag. I know, I know – but I’m a sucker for the brand. To my jaded eyes it looks the best among the three and has aged well.

    Drive: The Lincoln LS. Not a fan of this car but in the past I have eyed the rare manual versions for a used vehicle.

    Burn: Thunderbird. My memory was these came out to great acclaim, at least by some reviewers. And then hardly anyone bought ’em. Many years ago someone here at my job had one as her summer car but the design always seemed fuddy-duddy, like you had to be 70+ to drive one.

  • avatar

    Buy the Lincoln, it’s honest, roomy, the fewest compromises.
    Drive the T-Bird /if and only if/ it can be a convertible. otherwise it gets the matches.
    Burn the Jag. Not happy about it, but … it got edged out. Unless I can’t have the drop top to drive and then the 300 HP gets the weekends and the thunderbird goes FOOM!

    • 0 avatar

      Per my research, all T-birds were convertibles, and the removable hard top was available at extra cost. I think said top was standard on some models (er, special editions). But the soft top was still under there.

      Much like the Allante.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Buy: the Jaguar. I’ve always liked the S-Type’s deliberately contrarian styling, even though I also understand how some could see it as rather homely.

    Drive: the Lincoln. I know the LS hardly set the sales charts afire, but it’s still a shame that FoMoCo didn’t continue development of a rear-drive lux/sport car. How times have changed.

    Burn: the T-Bird. I sorta like the look, but the low-mileage 2004 example I drove recently while in search of a Miata replacement was a thoroughly underwhelming vehicle.

  • avatar

    Burn all three because they were utter garbage.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: the Lincoln-It has a more Teutonic crossed with American feel. If you search you can find a 3.0 with the manual. It’s too bad Ford never improved upon the platform for the proposed Mark 9 or a mid sized CUV.

    Drive: the T-Bird-It’s a retro drop top 2 seater. You can stand out in your condo community from the SL owners.

    Burn: the Jaguar-The interior is classic British but the rest of the package is underwhelming.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Buy the Jag. I also agree that the looks hark back to the classic Mark II. The ‘Morse’ car. And it would finally allow me to talk about “my Jag-u-ar”.

    Drive the T-Bird. At least on clear summer days.

    Burn the Lincoln. Because it is more ‘middle of the road’ than either of the others.

  • avatar

    Buy the Lincoln, it has character, in a 2000s way, and it’s the black sheep of the Lincoln family. It’s also the only one of the three I’ve actually driven.

    Drive the Thunderbird. Until the last couple of years I had no idea the Thunderbird was RWD and had a V8. I always thought it was FWD with a V6 and that’s why it sold so poorly and looked goofy. I’ve never seen another RWD vehicle with such terrible proportions.

    Burn the Jaguar. They looked cool in 1999 but very few cars have aged as badly as the S Type. The later de-chromed Rs still look good, especially in a dark colour, but the early ones are just awful, and the Kia Amanti didn’t help things either.

  • avatar

    Man if only Ford had put a real engine in the Thunderbird and Lincoln LS. I’m thinking that 32 valve DOCH 4.6 V8 they stuck in the Lincoln Mark VIII and 90’s Mustang Cobra would have been sweet. Or even better one of the supercharged modular variants like found in the 03-04 Mustang Cobra or Lightning pickup truck. That would have made a rather interesting sleeper in the Lincoln.

    Buy Thunderbird- At least its a convertible and you can still find nice ones out there for sale.

    Drive Lincoln- Its at least pretty honest IMO, handles nicely, isn’t so overwrought and over-styled like the Jag.

    Burn the Jag- Never did like the look of this car when it came out. Interior is nice though. Still if you’re going to light your hair on fire and buy a Jag of that era, get the XK8 coupe or convertible. Those are IMO still very sexy looking cars, and you can still find nice ones for sale.

  • avatar

    Buy the Ford for it’s value as a classic

    Drive the Jag because it’s the best car here by far

    Burn the Lincoln and don’t spare the petrol because he’ll it’s just rubbish

  • avatar

    The LS was a great idea in theory, but in practice it leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve read warnings from Ford dealer techs not to buy them (with the V8), because the dealer shops don’t want to touch them, and either didn’t buy all the special tools to work on them, or pitched them once the number of cars coming into the shop started dropping off.

  • avatar

    Buy the T-bird – it’s a two-seat convertible and it might be collectible someday.

    Drive the Lincoln – it’s an OK ride with the V8.

    Burn the Jaguar – Retro styling gone horribly wrong. It looks awful.

  • avatar

    Buy the Lincoln. I worked at a Lincoln-Mercury store when these were new and I loved them. Tasteful, sporty but subdued.

    Drive the Thunderbird. Well, it might be fun on a nice day, and its the only one that is significantly different then the Lincoln I already bought, being a two seat convertible. I’d honestly just rather have a Lincoln LS coupe.

    Burn the Jag. I don’t dislike the looks at all, but I do happen to like the Lincoln’s look better. That’s the only real reason it’s here in the burn pile.

    BTW Corey, the AJ30 was just a modified Ford Duratec V-6, with VVT, etc.

  • avatar

    A fun website to build would be one where you look up a car, and it shows you all the other makes/models which are basically the same car.

  • avatar

    I’m in the buy the ‘Bird camp, a nice weekend cruiser that with the optional hardtop could do double duty. I like the looks and it is one of my occasional searches when I troll craigslist.

    Drive the Lincoln.

    Burn the Jag because its styling hasn’t aged that well.

  • avatar

    Ooooh, this one is a toughy… I like all of them.

    Buy the Thunderbird. My mom has one, and it’s almost a pleasure to drive. Take off the confining top and the almost goes away. It’s a splendid boulevard cruiser.

    Drive the LS. One mystical day, Lincoln decided “I Can Has BMW-like Handling”. While they were short of successful in their endeavor, it looked like a valiant attempt at the time, which helped make the LS an easy car to live with despite its terrible name and styling. Handling? From Lincoln? It’s time to party like it’s 1999!!

    Burn the S Type. It hurts to type that. It was virtually better than the LS in every way; power, styling, interior appointments… But I’d rather have a Rover 75.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    I actually drive a Jaguar. I love it. Got it cheap with low miles. Took some work to get it in fine order, but since then it’s been a charm and I’ve driven halfway across country four times now. I just like the feeling I get in my Jag. When I see other Jag drivers, we give each other the thumbs-up every time.

    Mine is a 1990, so the reports here on the cam tensioner meltdown have given me the heeby-jeebies.

    The previous owner had the expensive transmission replacement job. I think Jag strengthened it in 1992 or so.
    The later supercharged S-type R version is the one to get. I drove it when it came out and it was beautifully muscular.
    I think the Jag lines have some character so the churlish comments above don’t matter.

    Back in 1990, the Jaguar cut a nice figure. I knew the Lincoln was its American cousin but to me it looked like a horrible compromise, the sort of thing that American car companies specialized in — ransacked by committee-men, made “safe” and bland. Burn this one.

    The Thunderbird was at least an attempt to get sporty but the looks still had that unfinished look.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah you keep saying 1990. But A) there was no Lincoln LS in 1990, and B) that was Ford’s first year of Jaguar ownership – they hadn’t done any products yet.

      So how did the LS which didn’t exist not compare well to the S-Type that didn’t exist in 1990?

      Furthermore, the inline six of your 1990 Jaguar (guessing XJ6) has nothing to do with the V8 AJ engines we’re talking about here with their tensioner issues.

      • 0 avatar


        “…Back in 1990, the Jaguar cut a nice figure. ‘I knew the Lincoln was its American cousin’ but to me it looked like a horrible compromise”

        baahaha! welp, only one decade off on LS existence

        as far as this thread… i’d still love to have a mint ’06 V8 LS in the stable.

      • 0 avatar
        Edsel Maserati

        I agree. There were enough brain farts in my post to blow out a volcano. Mine is a 2000 S-type with the 4.0 engine. I first drove this model in 2000. I then acquired mine from a friend a couple years ago. Engine was much happier when I changed to synthetic oil (of which it requires 6.5 quarts. I wonder if folks going to oil-change places get the full 6.5.)
        The DEW98 platform was shared with the Lincoln LS, which I was aware of back in the day.
        That’s when I formulated my surly opinion of the LS, which actually might have been a fine car. I don’t know. It looked compromised to me and I wondered then as I often wonder now how American design got so mixed up.
        Today I have the added question before me on how I could get so mixed up.
        You don’t have to offer suggestions.

  • avatar

    Buy the T-Bird, keep it in a bubble to sell at Mecum or Barrett-Jackson in 2040. I’m not a huge fan of this car, but at least Ford tried to re-create the sporty original T-Bird. They wound up with traits from every variation to wear a T-bird badge, but it was a try more along the lines of mid-90’s Chrysler than the staid Blue Oval.

    Drive the Lincoln. I’ve always liked these cars, even they are a bit bland in execution and 2000’s Ford chintzy inside. The only attempt besides the Mark VII LSC to swipe at the Germans in an American way ( Not as big of a fan of the Mark VIII car except in its final year)

    Burn the Jag- It has not aged well, though the interior is better than the platform mates here. If I want a Jag from this time, it’s an XJR.

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